Yellow felt cut-outs bearing the word “WORD” lined the grass of Little Acorn Park this past Saturday, a token of WORD Magazine’s second annual WORDSTOCK Festival. Also covering the grass were bundles of people tanning, playing hacky sack, dancing, flipping through pages of WORD, making friendship bracelets, tie-dying t-shirts and enjoying the carefree vibe of a gorgeously sunny Saturday afternoon.
WORDSTOCK began last year, when a couple of students enrolled in the class that produces the magazine, INT 185ST, thought of the idea of a concert for their quarterly special project. The festival matched the magazine’s mission to help support and promote local arts and culture. Last year it was held the weekend before finals, and the weather wasn’t so chipper. This year WORD lucked out with 80-degree sunshine and more than 200 attendees, a huge success considering that it was Memorial Day weekend.
Sticking to its Isla Vista roots, the festival showcased three local bands and one SoCal guest, all of which played amidst a sea of bubbles. Golden Bear of the West came straight from Long Beach in a RV and was the first to hit the WORDSTOCK stage, followed by I.V. locals Sky Tuned, The Fire Department and, finally, F M L Y B N D. The stage was bedecked with laminated covers of old magazine issues, and bubble machines were cleverly arranged on each side. Booths were set up for tie-dying, henna, face painting and making friendship bracelets. WORD issues were cheerfully passed out to everyone.
Art advisor and former Gaucho Micah Kilimanand and writer/photographer/designer Beth Askins acted as official face painters, harnessing their creative skills to transform festival goers into puppies, fire creatures and, of course, the magazine’s mascot: albino raccoons.
All afternoon, second-year WORD writer Caitlin Clancy manned the tie-dye table, which became more and more colorful as liquid dye seeped into the table’s surface. T-shirts were two bucks a pop, and dye was free if folks had their own shirt. Newly decorated Pizza My Heart tees mixed into the blue, yellow and red array on the grass.
Golden Bear of the West started off the day with some Radiohead-esque instrumental music, complemented by vocals that were based on sound rather than lyrics. GBW succeeded in attracting attention from many Isla Vistans wandering from Bagel Café to Little Acorn Park to hear a band foreign to I.V.
Sky Tuned played a delightful array of cover songs and originals. Composed of vocalist Laura Moreno, vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Boyce and drummer Eric Stanton, the folk rock trio played tunes ranging from The Beatles to Matisyahu.
The Fire Department was up next. Lead man Zeal Levin rocked the stage with his familiar quirkiness, happily narrating between songs.
“We’re gonna sneak into the groove factor now,” he said, before playing one of the bands’ many originals, “Groovin’ On.” The best part of FD’s set was the last song, when Levin invited Moreno (of Sky Tuned) on set to sing “Electric Feel.” The two had never practiced nor sung the song previously together, so it was all kinds of cool to see two great local singers coalesce onstage.
F M L Y B N D closed the night with a dreamy set. The indie electronic band awed the audience with their synthesizers, electronic drums, guitars and M83-like sound. The combination made for an uplifting rock performance.
“Listening to them made me want to run into a field and frolic, or just lay in the grass and stare at the sky,” said second-year psychology major and WORD lover Lilia Goldenberg. “You could just tell their lives revolve around their art and they put their whole heart and soul into it … they should honestly be at Coachella or something.”
What set WORDSTOCK apart from other I.V. festivals, (like, say, Chilla Vista) was that two of the bands, The Fire Department and F M L Y B N D, were featured in the latest editions of WORD Magazine, further supporting the magazine’s dedication to local arts and culture in a tangible way. WORD provided a story and a stage.
The other component that made it an especially lovely festival was the presence of the bubble machines. Bubbles made everything effervescent. It made the music sound better and the dancing more fun, as folks got to swing their hips and poke bubbles at the same time. It added a layer of childish splendor to Little Acorn Park.
“WORDSTOCK was the perfect way to spend a Saturday. The sun, the bubbles, the great music that filled the air, it was all perfect. It’s days like these that make me love Isla Vista,” said second-year environmental studies major Meli Padilla.
WORDSTOCK boasted over 200 attendees, 100 tie-dyed shirts, four great bands and five-and-a-half hours of bubble-induced merriment. Not too shabby for a fledgling festival. WORD up!
Photo by Audrey Bachelder / Daily Nexus
A version of this article appeared on page 13 of May 30th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.